Frances Kai-Hwa Wang


California’s State Board of Education approved a new History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools Thursday, adding changes on a wide variety of topics, including “comfort women” in World War II, the Bataan Death March and the Battle of Manila, discrimination faced by Sikh Americans, and the roles of LGBTQ community in U.S. and California history, according to the California Department of Education.


In this Tuesday, May 17, 2016 photo, Executive Director Korean American Forum of California, Phyllis Kim poses for a photo at the Galleria Market in Koreatown district of Los Angeles. Kim pushed for inclusion of Asian comfort women in the curriculum. Nick Ut / AP


“Hundreds of people representing broad perspectives contributed to the development of this important tool for teachers and classrooms,” Michael Kirst, State Board of Education president, said in a statement. “The new Framework will help guide classroom instruction at each grade level and will be used with other instructional resources to ensure all students have a broad understanding of history.”


Many celebrated the changes to the framework, which came after what the California Department of Education called “an unprecedented amount of public comments,” including more than 700 public comments during the online survey period, more than 10,000 email comments during the second field review, and many suggested edits and counter-edits.


“These changes are important for all California students and for the South Asian American community, in that through grassroots organization South Asian American organizers were able to beat back a well-funded Hindu fundamentalist lobby to ensure the facts were taught about the Dalit, Sikh, Ravidassia, Buddhist, and Muslim communities,” Thenmozhi Soundararajan, a Dalit-American activist, co-founder of Dalit History Month, and part of the South Asian Histories for All Coalition, told NBC News.


A frame taken from the webcast for a November California Instructional Quality Commission meeting, where dozens of Indian Americans made public comments regarding proposed changes to sixth and seventh grade textbooks.


“From the beginning of this process, HAF never sought to minimize the history or contributions of any other community. We in fact had submitted comments that encouraged a more inclusive view of both California and world history,” Samir Kalra, a spokesperson for the Hindu American Foundation, told NBC News. “Our comments, which many academics and an unprecedented coalition of government, interfaith, and community leaders have vouched for, speak to the evolution of Hinduism and call for contextualizing Indian history. Our efforts were focused on a more inclusive and equitable frameworks document.”


On the day of the vote, hundreds testified in one-minute comments for over five hours. Nearly one hundred people from South Asian Histories For All (SAHFA) — a multi-ethnic, multi-faith, inter-caste coalition of 25 organizations — testified for specific changes regarding historical inaccuracies and bias in the portrayal of Islam, Sikhism, Dalits, caste, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and more. Others urged the inclusion of Filipino Americans in the farm workers movement, ethnic studies, Latino American history, and concerns about bullying. Some Hindu and Japanese speakers wanted references to caste and patriarchy in Indian history and “comfort women” during World War II reduced or removed.


“This is not just an enormous victory in California, but also for the entire nation,” Harjit Kaur, the Sikh Coalition’s California Community Development Manager, said in a statement. “California, given its influence on the national educational system, will continue to set the precedent for this process in other states.”

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